First published in The Times, Friday August 26 2016
What a pity for Thomas Ostermeier that the legendary Moira Knox is no longer alive to see his raucous Shakespeare adaptation. The production, which originated at Berlin’s renowned Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, contains all the ingredients that would have had the late Tory councillor and self-appointed guardian of public decency frothing at the mouth and therefore guaranteeing the director an Edinburgh International Festival smash hit.
First published in The Times, Monday August 22 2016
The prospect of a second co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland and the New York-based Theatre of the Emerging Moment (TEAM) is mouth-watering. Their first collaborative piece, Architecting, which drew on characters from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind to show how history is constructed through popular culture, won awards at the fringe in 2008.
First published in The Times, Wednesday August 10 2016
The prologue is delivered by a narrator draped in a white sheet, like one of the ghosts from Scooby Doo, but that isn’t the oddest aspect of this collaboration between two of Ireland’s leading performance companies. The dream-like collage that follows includes a sequence in which the front and back ends of a pantomime horse attempt to pull in different directions and the arrival of a choir singing about decomposition. David Lynch would be proud.
First published in The Times, Monday August 31 2015
In outline, this looked fascinating: an acclaimed staging of a piece of concrete poetry by the Swiss artist Dieter Roth, consisting of 176 pages filled with a single word: “murmel”. Sadly, in the hands of the director Herbert Fritsch and the 11-strong ensemble of the Volksbühne, Berlin, this show, while intermittently engaging, proved something of an endurance test.
First published in The Times, Tuesday August 25 2015
Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that the Edinburgh International Festival and the Citizens Theatre were teaming up to create a theatrical adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s Lanark. The author himself had a go at translating his mammoth dystopian novel for film 30 years ago but was forced to abandon the project as a fool’s errand. It is therefore much to the credit of playwright David Greig that his adaptation of Gray’s big beast of a book for the stage is both comprehensive and reassuringly coherent.
First published in The Times, Friday August 21 2015
James Hogg’s 1824 novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is a key text of the Scottish literary canon: its fingerprints can be seen on everything from Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde to the performance videos of Douglas Gordon. Yet this co-production from Stewart Laing’s Untitled Projects in association with the National Theatre of Scotland and Tramway is no reverent adaptation. This, after all, is the director and company that brought us the immersive The Salon Project and a version of Genet’s The Maids that cast young men in the leads and featured a question-and-answer session with the director midway through act two.
First published in The Times, Wednesday August 19 2015
Dragons are everywhere in popular culture at present, but the emotional landscape depicted in this Scottish/Chinese co-production is worlds away from the high fantasy territory of Tolkien or Game of Thrones. Oliver Emanuel’s play for ages nine and upwards, staged by the Glasgow-based company Vox Motus in association with the National Theatre of Scotland and the Tianjin People’s Art Theatre of China, features the sense of adventure, pace and visual humour you expect from the best popular entertainment. Yet, in its depiction of the grief suffered by a young boy at the death of his mother, it is remarkably unflinching.